‘Dedicated to the movement’ Parks’ death draw praise for civil rights heroine

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 26, 2005

REGION-Monday night the state and nation lost one of its most historically significant citizens when Rosa Parks passed away. Parks is celebrated for her refusal to give up her seat to a white man on a Montgomery bus Dec. 1, 1955 when she was tired and weary from a long day of work.

In her 1994 book Quiet Strength Parks reflected on the incident.

“Our mistreatment was just not right, and I was tired of it,” Parks wrote. “I kept thinking about my mother and my grandparents, and how strong they were. I knew there was a possibility of being mistreated, but an opportunity was being given to me to do what I had asked of others.”

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The statement Parks made by her refusal to yield her seat changed the state of Alabama and the nation. Tuesday, friends and local leaders remembered her legacy.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley directed the flags flown above the Capitol to fly at half-staff in honor of Parks, who died at the age of 92.

The flags will fly at half-staff until sunset on the day of her funeral. Riley said Parks legacy would always be remembered.

“Alabama joins the nation in mourning as we mark the passing of a remarkable life,” Governor Riley said.

“Her brave act nearly 50 years ago in Montgomery changed our nation forever.”

Locally, several leaders said they would keep Parks and her family in their hearts

Alabama State Sen. Bobby Singleton said Parks meant a lot to the history of the nation and she would be missed.

“I think it is a tremendous loss to America,” Singleton said. “Rosa Parks meant so much to this country and I can’t imagine what America would be like if she hadn’t made her courageous stand.”

Singleton said he would keep Parks memory alive.

“I am just going to grieve her loss,” Singleton said. “I am going to grieve her loss and celebrate her life and contributions.”

Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said she also felt Parks death was a true tragedy.

“I certainly had a lot of admiration for Rosa Parks and her desire to correct an injustice,” Williamson said. I also recognize the role model she was for women everywhere.”

State Rep. Ralph Howard said Parks represented courage and a willingness to change the world.

“When I think about Rosa Parks I think about a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King when he said we cannot be silent onlookers,” Howard said. “Because she was not a silent onlooker America and the world are better places.”

Howard said Parks actions led to change worldwide.

“The fall of the Berlin wall, the fall of the Soviet Union all followed the Civil Rights movement,” Howard said. “It led to so many positive things worldwide all because she was a brave lady and not a silent onlooker.”

Those who knew Parks personally felt the greatest loss. Theresa Burroughs, founder of The Safe House Museum in Greensboro, was acquainted with Parks since her heroic stand in 1955. Burroughs said the stand Parks took that day would lead the movement all the way to Hale County and beyond.

Burroughs said she became friends with Parks while participating in the Civil Rights movement in the state capitol.

“We went to Montgomery during that time and that is where I first met her,” Burroughs said. “We would go up there and help them take people to and from work during the bus boycotts and she was always a very quiet, dignified lady.”

Inspired movement in Hale County as well.

Burroughs said through the years Parks attitude toward civil rights in America never changed.

“She was always dedicated to the movement all the way to the time of her death,” Burroughs said. “She never changed. She will always be remembered.”

Burroughs said The Safe House would have a remembrance of Parks on their anniversary.

In Washington D.C., U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions said Parks would always be remembered for her stand and saddened by her loss.

“I was saddened to learn of the death of Rosa Parks, whose refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus led to the civil rights movement,” Sessions said. “A native of Tuskegee, Alabama, Ms. Parks’ refusal to go to the back of the bus truly sparked a movement to ensure that all citizens were treated equally under the law. For her courage, for her role in changing Alabama, the South, the nation and the world for the better, our nation owes Ms. Parks a great debt of thanks.”

Sessions also remembered honoring Parks and said her presence had left its mark on the nation.

“As a member of the United States Senate, I was pleased in 1999 to sponsor legislation to give a Congressional Gold Medal to Rosa Parks,” Sessions said. “I was also pleased to secure funding to complete the Rosa Parks Library, Museum and Learning Center at Troy State University Montgomery Campus. Her life of grace and beauty, consistent with her Christian faith, has to a remarkable degree changed America for the better. It is good and right that her historic actions are fully understood and remembered.”